Similarly, you can let the nation's leading experts guide you. Wine guru Anthony Dias Blue, the wine and spirits editor of Bon Appétit magazine, often recommends great vintages in our very own 3 Bottles column in each issue of American Way (see page 40). Pick up a copy of Wine Spectator or Wine & Spirits at any newsstand. Read the reviews, then buy a couple of bottles that sound interesting. If you think they taste the way the writer described, then you've met your advisor. Otherwise, move on to a new publication. Two excellent newsletters are The Underground Wine Journal (714-433-0240) and Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar (www.internationalwinecellar.com). The most powerful critic in America is Robert Parker with his newsletter The Wine Advocate (www.wineadvocate.com).

CATALOGING
To further your enjoyment, keep a wine journal on paper, or even better, in your computer. With each purchase record the full name, number of bottles purchased, vintage, vineyard, bottle size, price paid, date bought, and date consumed. Also record any personal notes on taste, along with foods that did or did not go well with the wine. By tracking this information, you'll be educating yourself and maximizing your enjoyment of a hobby that, like the wines themselves, grows richer and deeper with time.

BEGINNER'S CELLAR
If you're starting a small collection of wine primarily for the convenience of having wine ready when you want it, then buy things you like to drink now. Begin with a two case, or 24 bottle, collection. You will need to consider a little variety to meet the needs of different guest preferences and dishes. Buy wines in twos. It's frustrating to be enjoying a wine with friends and then run out. Try these for a well-rounded start:

CHAMPAGNE
Always have a champagne or sparkling wine chilled.